How Investment Bankers Will Read Your Resume
One thing that became glaringly obvious to me when I started working in investment banking and was on the other side of the job interview process: it is truly hard to believe how many mediocre resumes there are out there. This is a terrible situation for the job seekers in this position, because having a good resume is a key factor in whether many candidates even get a first-round interview. Remember: if you’re applying for an investment banking job, you will have stiff competition. You resume must stand out, and it must be highly professional. Thus having a solid understanding of how to construct a high-quality resume is crucial. It is arguably the first thing you do in your career search.
Resumes are typically submitted through the investment bank’s career website and filtered down to Human Resources (HR). Resumes are then bundled together and sent around to investment bankers for review. If you have applied for an internship or analyst-level positions, investment banking analysts will be in charge of reviewing your resume. The bundled resumes will be looked at quickly individually, and recommendations will be made on who they feel is qualified for interviews.
If you are from a “core school” then the alumni team from your school at the bank will typically review your resume; these are generally analysts or associates. If you are applying for an associate position then investment banking associates and above will be checking over the resumes (analysts will not be involved).
In terms of time, bankers will probably spend only seconds looking at your resume. If they see anything unusual about it (poor formatting, unorthodox layout, a typo, a grammatical error, etc.), it will be very hard to recover from that quick initial impression no matter how talented you are, and no matter how good your experience is. Therefore it must stand out while following “the rules,” and it must be error-free.
So how do you construct a resume that stands out from the crowd without breaking “the rules”? Most people think they have a good resume, and many do, but investment banking recruiters are looking for a very particular style. Without the right resume, it doesn’t matter how talented, hard-working, or experienced you are: you won’t get in the door.
What Investment Bankers Look for in a Resume
Quantitative & Analytical Ability
These are both critical for an investment banking resume especially during the early years. The bankers want to know that you can solve quantitative problems. Your resume will benefit if you demonstrate this skill. Have you:
- Filtered through data and assumptions, and identified reasonable responses to complex problems?
- Synthesized large amounts of information and identified issues?
- Identified a problem and taken proactive approach to solving it?
- Done well in courses with heavy analytical and quantitative content?
- Performed experiments that required formulation of a hypothesis and collection of evidence to support or reject it?
Initiative and Motivation
Firms want to know whether you have the initiative, motivation, and energy to deliver strong results. Start tracking and measuring your achievements and specific situations that demonstrate these skills and qualities. Make sure they are apparent in your resume. When you interview, you’ll need to discuss your accomplishments in detail. Have you:
- Brought new customers and/or revenue into your company?
- Proven yourself to be a self-starter who goes above and beyond requirements?
- Shown the ability to switch priorities and move quickly among different tasks?
- Set a challenging goal and achieved it?
- Attended to important details while also juggling multiple tasks (that is, you didn’t let things fall through the cracks even when you have a lot going on)?
- Taken an innovative and efficient approach to get something done?
The ability to write and speak efficiently and effectively suggests that you’ll be successful working with clients and colleagues. Your resume will benefit if you demonstrate this skill. Have you:
- Presented in front of classes, teams, and organizations?
- Written successful papers, memos, and speeches?
- Worked effectively with clients to understand their needs?
- Articulated ideas in a clear and thorough manner?
- Used communication skills to resolve a difficult problem with a client, supplier, or colleague?
Teamwork & Leadership Skills
Teaming up with clients and peers is a critical assignment. Bankers work in teams. They generally interact with teams of executives from client companies. Also, bankers are looking for leaders. Individuals that find a way to get things done and people that can handle the pressure-filled environment of the job. Your resume will benefit if you demonstrate this aptitude. Have you:
- Been a member of a sports team, study group, or committee?
- Worked effectively with people whose work style differs from your own?
- Inspired others to take action in an unstructured situation?
- Taken on the role of a team leader or player as needed?
Interest in Finance
It is essential to explain,”Why are you here?” Investment bankers want to know that you know exactly what you’re getting yourself into and that you have a legitimate interest in a finance career. This is especially critical for liberal arts majors that don’t have course requirements in finance. Your resume will benefit if you demonstrate this interest. Have you:
- Been a member of any investment banking or finance-related club?
- Competed in finance case competitions? How did you do?
- Taken relevant finance courses?
- Invested your own trading portfolio?
How to Improve Your Resume
Most resumes go through the HR department. In general it is important to make your resume stand out quickly for an HR screener. But distinguishing yourself quickly is even more important when you are in the investment banking job hunt, because it’s the bankers—not HR—who are usually reading the resumes, and the bankers’ time is extremely limited. They work grueling hours with tons of items on their to-do lists, so they will be very precise and efficient at sizing up your resume. Traditional wisdom says that you have only 20-30 seconds to make an impression when HR reads your resume—you can easily cut that time in half for bankers!
Find a way to stand out
Attending a very good school won’t be good enough—even if you went to Harvard! Let’s face it—half of the resumes in the pile are going to be from Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Wharton, or Stanford. Instead, you must use your own unique experience and qualifications to stand out. Show how you did something special to work hard; show your ability to multitask. Show how impressive you are. For example, if you started a company with multiple employees, make sure that is obvious from a quick first read.
Show your knowledge of the finance industry
Highlight finance industry-specific knowledge and experience and, where applicable, target the relevant groups inside the bank. (This has to be legitimate, however. You can’t say you worked as a cashier at Blockbuster and as a result claim to be a media expert!) Make sure you can back up what you say—if you are going to claim to be an expert in something, you need to have real industry knowledge. For example, if you interned for a pharmaceutical company conducting research on new products in the pipeline, then it is reasonable to claim that you have industry-insider level experience in pharmaceuticals, because the drug pipeline is the number one source of shareholder value in that industry.
Highlight your relevant interests
Some people will be unfortunate not to have had any real, relevant experience at all. The key for such candidates is to find relevant interests that are not listed as part of a job that they held, and that would be of interest to a hiring manager or a prospective colleague. Just make sure that these interests are indeed relevant and not too “fluffy.” For example, you could highlight specific case studies that you worked on in college, if they are relevant to investment banking. Or, you could talk about your investment portfolio if you have one or help manage one. Using fluff here could hurt rather than help. For example, don’t claim that because you were the treasurer of your fraternity or a cashier at Walmart, you are experienced with handling money. Don’t use anything that’s too much of a stretch unless it is really unusual and impressive.
And here’s something to think about. If you really don’t have any relevant work experience, start positioning yourself so that you can still claim some. Advise others who know less than you. In other words, become a “consultant” of sorts—amateur or collegiate investing clubs, helping your father plan his taxes or retirement account, working for a college business team—is there someone who needs your expertise or help?
Another option, if feasible for you, is to get an internship, even if it means getting an unpaid one. Call on local banks or brokerage houses. Offer to sweep the floors if you have to. In addition to having something to put on your resume, you might actually learn something!
Finance Resume Template
You might have seen thousands of investment banking resume examples, but only one will work for Wall Street. This point cannot be emphasized enough. Investment banking has a strongly conservative cultural and professional heritage, and if you want to work in that field, you should adapt your resume accordingly. Whether you are a college student looking to break into investment banking, or already a banking analyst, it is critical that your resume matches the expected format. Here is an example of the formatting style you should use—try to match it in your resume as closely as you can:
At Street of Walls we have seen thousands of resumes come in the door, and without the right resume, it doesn’t matter how smart or hard working you are, you won’t get a seat for an interview. Most people think they have a good resume, and many do, but Wall Street recruiters are looking for a very particular resume style. Do not forget this or try to bend the framework if you are serious about working in the field.
In addition to formatting, keep in mind that your resume must absolutely be error-free. You can also go wrong by providing insufficient explanations of your experience thus far—inaccurate descriptions, vague phrasing, too much boilerplate text and not enough substance. From my experience, poor resumes will typically fall into one of two categories:
- College Student Resume Problems: Somewhat good content, obvious enthusiasm, but poor resume template
- Investment Banker Resume Problems: Good template but poor detail and descriptions or obvious lack of enthusiasm or anything engaging
Hopefully these tips will help you! If you feel you still need more help, feel free to check out Street of Walls’ Investment Banking Resume Builder, where we will work with you to build a resume that you will be proud of and will help get you in the door to your new career.←Investment Banking NetworkingInvestment Banking Interview Questions→